Roles Of Analogies: Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

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“The role of analogy is to aid understanding rather than to provide justification.” To what extent do you agree with this claim?

Today, in our modern society, we retain a vast amount of knowledge on a daily basis. We are being constantly dominated with new information and concepts because of the fast evolving world that we live in, which can confuse us. In the given prompt, it explores the role of analogies in our society and whether they are used to aid understanding or provide justification. Currently, analogies can be utilized to describe controversial or difficult content with the help of everyday language and matter known to all people. An important phrase in the prompt is “to aid understanding.” This phrase implies that, analogies could be used to aid understanding, but do not necessarily have to be completely accurate when told. Another significant portion in the claim is, “to provide justification.” This statement concludes that analogies could be used to prove something as correct or incorrect and can act as evidence to back up a given claim. In the respective areas of knowledge of art and natural sciences, who are both at completely opposite ends of the spectrum, both utilize analogies in their fields. A knowledge question that can be raised from the stated claim, is to what extent are analogies a reliable way of communicating knowledge? In general, I agree with the given claim that the role of analogy is to aid understanding rather than to provide justification but only to a certain extent.

Analogies used in the natural sciences are a reliable way of aiding one’s understanding of knowledge. Analogies can help us reason to come to a certain conclusion on the knowledge that we have received. Reliable analogies clarify confusions for the audience as well as simplify concepts. One could say that analogies have helped human beings to understand the unknown, metaphysical aspects of our world. In terms of analogies in the way of knowing of reason, there can be two types of arguments made; inductive and deductive. In the natural sciences, inductive reasoning is used when making and comprehending analogies. An example of this is the billiard ball model which represents the atomic theory. Around 1800, chemist John Dalton decided to research and find evidence for the being of atoms. At that time the theory of an atom had only been spoken by Democritus over 2500 years ago. After doing a series of experiments, Dalton developed an atomic theory which stated that all substances are made of atoms, all atoms of the same element are alike and have the same mass, and finally, atoms join together to form compounds. To help others understand his theory he created the billiard ball model because he believed that all atoms were solid like billiard balls. Billiard balls were also the same weight like the atoms in his theory. (Brainard, Jean, Dalton’s Atomic Theory, www.ck12.org). Dalton created an analogy by comparing billiard balls to atoms so people could comprehend the difficult concepts of his discoveries. Although Dalton’s theory was not completely correct, his analogy helped other scientists to understand his view and advance our knowledge on atoms today.

In the natural sciences analogies are a dependable source of proof to justify scientific processes or theories. It is well known that the natural sciences are all connected in one way or another so analogies help to discover new functions or parts of the sciences. An example of this is the double helix, also known as the structure of DNA. Two scientists, Francis Crick and James Watson created the three dimensional model of the double helix after looking at x-ray photographs of DNA created by Rosalind Franklin. The double helix model suggested that the transfer of hereditary information works on a molecular level rather than just travelling from cell to cell thus indicating how genes, cells and all lifeforms reproduce. In this case, a helix is a shape that is three dimensional and is a type of smooth space curve, similar to a spiral. The helix and the DNA, two completely different things shared a similar structure which helped Crick and Watson to justify not only the structure of DNA but also other substances like guanine and cytosine found in DNA and where they connect in the inside of DNA. (Nature News, www.nature.com). This is just one of the many examples of how analogies can be used in the natural sciences to justify a certain hypothesis or concept. With proper evidence to back up an analogy, it can be deemed as a valid way to justify the overall idea and provide proof for a certain claim or discovery. Analogies can be a reliable way to provide justification because they allow scientists to demonstrate and prove their findings.

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Analogies in art provide an accurate way of allowing a person to comprehend the piece. Although art is extremely subjective, in order for the audience to fully understand the artists intentions they must use analogical reasoning to interpret the art. For instance, in literature, Shakespeare was a huge lover of analogies and used them to illustrate convoluted topics like life and love for the people of that time. An example of this is found in MacBeth, Act V, which states “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then it is heard no more.” This analogy compares the means of life to that of a mere shadow, and a nervous actor who worries about performing on stage only to not be heard of after the performance. What he was trying to convey to the audience is that life can be gone as fast as a shadow or a person who disappears and he did this by utilizing an analogy to help the people watching his plays grasp the situation of life and death. Using analogies in this case was a reliable way to get the audience to understand rather than justify his message. It still gave people room for interpreting the lines in their own way to fully grasp the concept, rather than imposing that Shakespeare’s way of expressing the message is the only one that’s correct.

Analogies provide justification of what the artists message is supposed to be for the audience. Although art is subjective, some artists like to give hints through analogies to spread their thoughts on the piece and what it actually is about in their opinion. In many movies analogies can be used to summarize the main idea of the movie for the audience. In the popular movie Forrest Gump, Forrest the main character states that his mother once told him, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” This analogy compares two completely different things, life and a box of chocolates. In summary, this analogy means that we chose to go through different paths of life, not knowing if we are going to encounter good or bad experiences like picking a chocolate out of a box. In other words, this analogy means to expect the unexpected obstacles that life has to throw at you. This analogy provides justification because all through Forrest Gump’s life, as shown in the movie, he gets into unique situations which goes to show how an analogy in art can be used to justify the artists message. The analogy gives a big hint to the overall message of the movie and gets it across to the audience without making things complicated. Once the audience understands the artists meaning for the creation of their art, the audience is able to pick out small details in the work that relate to the main message.

With what I’ve discussed in the previous paragraphs, I’ve come to the conclusion that the role of analogies is solely for comprehending difficult subjects. Analogies are good for making comparisons to clarify, but without valid evidence they cannot be used as a justification of sorts. As an IB student who is constantly learning and receiving new knowledge, analogies have allowed me to make personal connections to comprehend an idea or thought. In all of the times that I have encountered analogies, they were strictly used for the clarification of complex topics in subjects such as the sciences and the arts.

Although I agree with the claim that the role of analogies are used to aid understanding rather than provide justification, there are still limitations to this statement. Especially in the areas of knowledge of the natural sciences, human sciences and mathematics, analogies can be used for both aiding and justifying topics. Analogies are helpful when learning something new, however, in some cases if the analogy is not told well one can get confused. Analogies are also extremely helpful when advancing your current knowledge or justifying what you know. Overall, analogies have played a very important role in the development of our current shared knowledge and hopefully they will continue to help us to proceed in the quest for knowledge in the future.    

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